Nicolas Cage’s career has defied all definition. This is an actor who’s choice of role, especially in the last decade or so, has gotten all the more curious but that’s nothing to how he approaches material- which has always been experimental and sometimes just downright insane. His “Vampire’s Kiss” prep alone would be worthy of a movie.
But we have “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” instead, where the actor plays a fictionalized version of himself, but it’s not the send-up of the actor’s life that I think many imagined it would be. In fact it seems like it’s trying to be a lot of different things- some just don’t work, while others, like a bromance, end up carrying it.
The Cage in this movie is similar to real life in that much of the work he has been taking recently is to pay off debts. He wants to do challenging work again as much as he wants his daughter to love many of the things he does but when the first often eludes him his family, who could care less about the movies of Fritz Lang, often suffer the hardest.
Strapped for cash, he winds up getting a free trip to Spain, being a paid birthday guest for a billionaire named Javi (Pedro Pascal), a Cage-aholic and cinephile who sees the actor down in the dumps and wants to be the inspiration that lifts him back up. The two men decide to craft a script together.
Only problem is Javi may also be an arms dealer that the CIA is tracking and, seeing that Cage now has an in with the man, two agents (Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz) recruit the actor to try and dig up dirt as well as locate a kidnapped girl that Javi may have hidden in his possession.
Where the film works most is with Cage and Javi- two true film lovers who find common ground (and a cheering up) in discussing cinema and performing little reenactments together. No scene is funnier than when both get paranoid off LSD and think themselves in an action picture, while no scene is filled with a deeper respect than when Pascal shows the full depth of his admiration in showing Cage his man cave.
It’s a less wild performance from Cage, whose performance sometimes is a chance to poke fun at the pretentious Hollywood ego but it’s wrapped up in a man who knows he has a lot of work to do, professionally and personally, to get his life back on track and that’s what endears him. His conversations with Nicky, an imaginary alter-ego, also played by Cage in a blonde wig, leather jacket, and “Wild at Heart” shirt, are inspired- Cage coming to terms with his younger self.
If the film could have just been more about Cage and Javi, or Cage and Nicky then I think it could have found gold here but there’s a lot of other stuff happening. The spy story is just silly and clumsy- a scene where Cage accidentally uses a type of chloroform on himself isn’t the physical comedy bit the film thinks, nor is the overblown action ending. Haddish and Barinholtz are also fairly pushed to the side.
Then it also tries to be a film of family therapy, yet bringing Cage’s wife and daughter (Sharon Horgan, Lily Sheen) into the mix for reconciliation feels like a scene both shoehorned in and contrived. Then it also tries to be a self-referential comedy-”The Rock”, “Con Air”, and more are brought up by several characters but the only time it feels like more than just name-dropping is a sorta funny, sorta touching story Javi tells about “Guarding Tess”.
Overall what I liked most about it was unexpected, it’s a wonderful buddy comedy, but it comes with so many elements and plot threads. It’s watchable and a pleasant effort, but its talents could have used some honing.
Rating: 3 out of 5